How can data visualization support interdisciplinary research? LuxTIME: studying historical exposomics in Belval

The Luxembourg Time Machine (LuxTIME) is an interdisciplinary project that studies the historical exposome during the industrialization of the Minett region, located in the south of Luxembourg. Exposome research encompasses all external and internal non-genetic factors influencing the health of the population, such as air pollution, green spaces, noise, work conditions, physical activity, and diet. Due to the wide scope of the interdisciplinary project, the historical study of the exposome in Belval involved the collection of quantitative and qualitative data from the National Archive of Luxembourg, various local archives (e.g., the communes of Esch-sur-Alzette and Sanem), the National Library, the Library of National Statistics STATEC, the National Geoportal of Luxembourg, scientific data from other research centers, and information from newspapers and journals digitized in eluxemburgensia.1 The data collection and the resulting inventory were performed to create a proof of concept to critically test the potential of a multi-layered research design for the study of the historical exposome in Belval. The guiding navigation tool throughout the project was data visualization. It has facilitated the exploration of the data collected (or just the data) and the metadata. It has also been a valuable tool for mapping knowledge and defining the scope of the project. Furthermore, different data visualization techniques have helped us to reflect on the process of knowledge sharing, to understand how the relevance of certain topics changed throughout the project and why, and to learn about the publication process in different journals and the experience of the participants. Data visualization is used not only as a means to an end but also to embrace the idea of sandcastles using a speculative and process-oriented approach to advance knowledge within all research fields involved. LuxTIME has proven to be an ideal case study to explore the possibilities offered by different data visualization concepts and techniques resulting in a data visualization toolbox that could be evaluated and extended in other interdisciplinary projects.

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